Saturday, December 20, 2008

Scaling Back This Holiday Season

December is typically a busy month for me both at home and at work. In addition to holiday activities, I am closing my company’s books and finalizing next year’s budget. This year has been exceptionally busy; it’s my turn to host my extended family’s holiday meal. Last week, in the midst of shopping, decorating, and cleaning I realized I had three parties to attend over a two day period all of which required I bring a dish to pass. To save my sanity, I decided I had to scale back. This is what I came up with:

The neighborhood cookie exchange:
I am not going to participate this year. I don’t have time to make 5 dozen cookies, nor do I need to eat them. Plus, my husband doesn't particularly like the exchange. He can’t understand why I give away his favorite cookies only to receive ones he doesn't like.

Holiday cards:
I am not sending cards this year. This isn’t a new practice; I didn’t mail cards last year either. My thinking is if I don’t take the time to write a note, send something creative or purchase cards from a charitable organization what is the point. Hopefully, my friends and family don’t feel slighted by not receiving the token Hallmark card with just my signature on it. I love receiving their cards especially the ones that are handmade and include family photos.

Volunteer work:
I am not attending my professional organization’s mid-year board meeting. I am no longer on the board and am not sure why I feel obligated to travel across town during rush hour traffic to attend a meeting in which I most likely will be persuaded to chair another committee.

The work pot-luck:
I am bringing Frito snack mix as my dish to pass. A bag of Fritos is mixed with plain M&M’s, peanut M&M’s, peanuts, chocolate stars and chocolate peanuts. No cooking. No cleanup. No hauling of crock pots and no searching for room in the work refrigerator. This is my kind of dish.

Buying gifts for family:
Instead of spending hours searching for the perfect gift, I have asked for gift ideas from my recipient's spouses and their children. I have been surprised by their practical suggestions; slow cooker, gloves and socks. (Also, as a group my family decided to lower the spending limit for our gift exchange this year.)

Giving gifts to co-workers:
I am not going to rush out to buy a gift for my HR manager just because she gave me one. It's kind of weird; she gave only me and one other person in my department a gift. To reciprocate I wouldn’t feel comfortable giving a gift just to her; what about the other people in my department or the employees I work closely with in other departments. I've already participated in my company's gift-exchange. I am going to leave it at that.

Holiday Dinner menu:
After a failed trial run making slow-cooked wild rice, I've decided to serve Uncle Ben’s wild rice out of a box as one of my holiday meal side dishes.

Scaling back doesn’t always have to be about money, sometimes we need to step back, evaluate our situation and be realistic about what we can and can’t easily accomplish in a tight time frame.

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